A Little Satire is good for the weekend: AliBaba Aficionado 1


December 10, 2017

A Little Satire is good for the weekend: AliBaba Aficionado 1

by R. Nadeswaran

SATIRE | The following is the welcome address by AliBaba Aficionado 1 (ABA1) at the emergency caucus meeting of “AliBaba and the 40 Thieves” held in a cave in a Southeast Asian country this week:

This is not a political meeting. So I will dispense with the formalities. As Head of the Brotherhood of Thieves, I have bad news. We can no longer rely on the people we had previously relied on. Some are cracking up and soon, they will be singing like canaries. Like the 159 business leaders housed at the Ritz Gardens in Riyadh which has been turned into a prison, some of you will turn over or be turned over.

Our turn may have come. The law is closing on us. Sorry, the law is closing on me. I can run but I can’t hide. You are accessories so I don’t think they are interested in you. You are only foot soldiers who carry out my orders. I will not squeal on you but I will have to seek protection for my wife. I sometimes wonder if anyone would speak up for her or save her.

The paintings have been returned, the properties were seized and some jewellery surrendered. My wife is aware “they” know about the pink diamonds but I am worried that she will go berserk if they attempt to confiscate them.

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Yes, 2017 is not a year on which I shall look back with unadulterated pleasure. It has turned out to be my annus horribilis.  A series of unfriendly events have taken place and the crackdown by authorities around the world has caused us a lot of discomfort, distress and loss of sleep.

Periodically, when the coast appears to be clear, the governments of certain states drop “bombs” unannounced and we have to set our damage control operations in motion. Even our neighbours have not been too helpful with the timing!

Two days ago, some American lawyer described one of our citizens as a kleptocrat and its effects have been reverberating from the Atlantic to our shores. A few of our die-hard supporters have become victims – dumb-founded, caught flat-footed and mostly ignorant.

Our usually dependent propaganda unit has run out of lies and deceit. The guys who were put in charge have failed miserably. All they could do was to scrap the bottom of the barrel and say that the lawyer does not know what he is talking about!

Do you expect the people to believe them? The cyber-troopers whom we spent millions have no clue how these issues have to be addressed.

Our Mr Money Bag @ Fei Chai is not with us, which should tell you a lot. In fact, he is scared of setting foot not only on our shores but any landfall in the world. Hence, he is taking to the high seas to avoid arrest. With the most beautiful girls and the best champagne, he shouldn’t be complaining!

On a more serious note, the lifeline of our operations – money – has been slow in coming. Fei Chai’s non-appearance is reflected in your goodie bags. No more gold bars and other glittering stuff. There’s not much to take home. Perhaps some gold coins, some sterling, euros and greenbacks and a few other odds and ends.

Money is tight

Previously, as head of the congregation, when I call for summits like this, there’s plenty to pass around, but not this time. Many governments are keeping tracks on Fei Chai and his activities. His close associates have abandoned him. He can’t even transact any financial dealings. Even his proxies are under watch.

A few years ago, he wired a couple of billion into my account. When one American journal published the details, I thought they will back off after I threatened to sue. Instead, they challenged me. I had to retreat.

Then, I told everyone that the money came from a friendly party in the Middle East. My No 2 even went to extent of announcing that he met the donor. But he couldn’t even tell a lie properly because his bluff was called.

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One of the Delegates to the Emergency Caucus meeting of “AliBaba and the 40 Thieves” 

This claim debunked and I was caught with my pants down when they produced documents showing the money trail through financial institutions in four countries before it came to my account. It caused me quite a few anxious moments when I met up with my golf buddy in the US on a recent visit.

Banks around the world are watching the movement of money. Fei Chai, members of my family and many of you have been designated as “persons of interest” by central banks of some countries. Hence, if you have overseas accounts, be prepared to offer some explanation as to the source of your funds.

Let me remind you that not far from where we have assembled, there are about 5,000 people attending another congregation where more is spoken than done. They have no love for any group or any leader. They have converged, hoping to reap the rewards – cash, contracts, projects and even one-night stands – at an annual meeting where everything including loyalty, allegiance and commitment are traded. Even principles, ethics, integrity and conscience are bought and sold at a premium to the highest bidder.

Despite having their hands tainted, some are making excessive demands with the backing of dissidents. I have already heard the Cow-in-Condo woman beating the war drums and the lavatory cleaner wanting to be installed as chief minister. Some other minions have come out with bird-brained ideas but as I said, there’s not enough loot to contain their lofty and ambitious ideas.

I have said it before and is worth repeating – cash is king. But right now, cash is tight. Old friends who benefited are washing their hands off. And there’s not enough to appease everyone. Any idea, plan or suggestion to assist me in escaping my predicament will certainly be welcome.

The above is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns

Tunku Sallehuddin named 29th Sultan of Kedah Darul Aman


September 12, 2017

Daulat Tuanku, Daulat Tuanku, Daulat Tuanku: Tunku Sallehuddin named 29th Sultan of Kedah

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ALOR SETAR: Tan Sri Tunku Sallehuddin Ibni Almarhum Sultan Badlishah (pic with his consort Tengku Maliha Tengku Ariff) has been announced as the 29th Sultan of Kedah.

The announcement was made at 1.55pm on Tuesday at Istana Anak Bukit by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah.

Tunku Sallehuddin succeeds his brother, the late Sultan Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah who passed away at 2.30pm on Monday.

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Fond Farewell to DYMM Tuanku Sultan Abdul Halim, 28th Sultan of Kedah Darul Aman, under whose reign Kedah and Malaysia prospered

The announcement was made at Balai Penghadapan followed by three chants of “Daulat Tuanku” and the playing of music by the royal court’s music ensemble.

On December 15, 2016, Tunku Sallehuddin was proclaimed as Raja Muda of Kedah, at the age of 74, in conjunction with the return of the late Kedah Sultan to the state after the end of his five-year term as the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Tunku Sallehuddin replaced the previous Raja Muda of Kedah, Tunku Abdul Malik ibni Almarhum Sultan Badlishah, who passed away on November 29, last year.

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Born on April 30, 1942 in Alor Setar, Tunku Sallehuddin married Puan Sri Tengku Maliha Tengku Ariff and have two sons — Tunku Sarafuddin Badlishah (who is the current Tunku Laksamana) and Tunku Sahzuddin Badlishah.

 

The Bamboo–It’s Magic


August 13, 2017

The Bamboo–It’s Magic

 

 

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I am fascinated with Bamboo. It is Nature’s gift to mankind because it is versatile and durable. Dr.Kamsiah and I plant bamboo in our home, no. 26, Jalan SS22/39, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya to enrich our environment and attract the birds.

Have a good weekend.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

With Old Age comes Healthy Dose of Wisdom and Skepticism


July 5, 2017

With Old Age comes Healthy Dose of Wisdom  and Skepticism

By Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

One of the pitifully few consolations of old age is supposed to be that, as the Old Testament Book of Job puts it, ‘with the ancient is wisdom; and in the length of days understanding.’

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But with every passing day I find myself less convinced of this, and increasingly if regretfully inclined to the contrary view that, as the late, great American skeptic and critic H L Mencken so aptly expressed it, “the older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”

In fact, if there’s one lesson that life has taught me, it’s to distrust all doctrines, dogmas, ideologies and other such alleged “truths”.

Especially those “truths” whose proponents, or rather propagandists, are most at pains to threaten dire penalties for those daring to doubt or outright disbelieve them.

Thus the older I get the more inclined I am to dismiss such typical examples of intellectual bullying as “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Bible, Psalms 11:10) and “He that doubteth is damned” (Bible, Romans 14:23) in favour of the proverbial Ancient Greek proposition that “wonder is the beginning of wisdom” and the observation by Miguel De Unamuno (1864-1936) that “life is doubt, and faith, without doubt, is nothing but death.”

In all conscience, however, as long as I’m arguing here for doubt, wonder, questioning, skepticism or whatever as the path to wisdom, I have to admit to awareness of De Unamuno’s wry remark that “a lot of good arguments are spoiled by some fool who knows what he is talking about.”

And since surely some foolish Malaysiakini reader who knows what he (or she) is talking about is already on the point of reminding me that as desirable as doubt might be in principle, it can also be dangerous or even deadly in practice, I might as well get in first.

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Starting with conceding that, yes, just as disrespect of or doubt in the supposed gods of ancient Athens proved fatal to the philosopher Socrates, and doubt in the biblically-proclaimed relationship between the earth and the sun decidedly dangerous to Galileo, doubt in allegedly “sacred” and indeed “divinely-inspired” books can prove a death sentence in many theocracies and other “religious”-majority countries today.

It is also clearly far from safe for the inhabitants of a great many nations to demonstrate a lack of faith in their rulers. For citizens of China, for example, to cast doubt on their fake “people’s” Communist Party; for Russians to question the probity of Putin’s corrupt oligarchy; or for Malaysians to express too strident doubts about the billions missing from 1Malaysia Development Berhad or the massive “donation” Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his cronies dubiously claim he received from some mysterious rich Arab.

In fact, to show a lack of faith in the virtues of Najib and his accomplices in the UMNO-BN regime is considered virtually tantamount to doubting Allah, by whom, it is regularly claimed, they have been chosen to rule.

Just as millions of US citizens paradoxically claiming complete faith in both of what to many of us are the conflicting creeds of Christianity and Capitalism have chosen to have their nation presided over by the preposterous, pathologically lying Donald Trump, who deems any doubts about him and his stupid tweets as “fake news”.

In short, as much as I hate to have to admit it, doubt isn’t always politic or even possible, and even when entirely possible, as in the relatively free and just society I’m fortunate enough to live in, it can be a decidedly mixed blessing.

When combined with sufficient effort, thought and sustained tolerance for the discomfort of uncertainty, doubt or skepticism can lead to wisdom, but unfortunately, it all too often gets subverted by the all-too-human tendency to wishful thinking, and thus results in nothing but wishdom.

For example, doubts by the disaffected, disadvantaged or outright desperate about the fairness and effectiveness of political institutions can lead, as we currently see to our collective dismay, not the greater wisdom of all concerned, but the kind of woeful wishdom that gives rise to a dangerous nitwit like Donald Trump as in the US, a Rodrigo Duterte as in the Philippines, and similar idiots elsewhere.

Doubts on the part of a spectrum of the populace ranging from the confused through the irrational to the utterly cuckoo about such creatively self-questioning institutions as medicine, science and technology result not necessarily in greater public wisdom, but in many cases entirely evidence-free faith in any of a virtually infinite clutter of weird and wonderful wishdoms including, to cite just a small sample of such superstitions and paranormalities, angels, anti-fluoridation, astral travel, astrology, aura-reading, breatharianism, clairvoyance, climate-change denial, colonic irrigation, druidism, ghosts, fairies, iridology, naturopathy, palmistry, pixies, psychic surgery, satanism, spiritualism, sprites, telekinesis, trolls and UFOlogy.

And given that all of us are liable to have grave doubts about the idea of what appears to be the inevitability of our deaths, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve achieved very few wisdoms, at least that I’m personally aware of, on the subject.

Plenty of witticisms, admittedly, two of my favourites among these being Woody Allen’s “I” m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens’ and Bob Monkhouse’s “I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my father did; not screaming and crying like his passengers.”

But mostly we deal with death not through the wisdom of laughing in the face of its ultimate reality, or but with the laughable wishdom of an “immortal” soul that somehow either eternally survives in some “other” world, or keeps being “reincarnated” in this world in a series of different bodies. And in case our faith in such far-fetched nonsense fails, we can always pin our hopes on cryogenics.

In conclusion, in all honesty, I feel obliged to confess that, despite my carefully-cultivated skepticism and considerable thought I’ve yet to achieve even the degree of wisdom of which Socrates famously boasted in claiming that he was wiser than all his fellow ignoramuses in Athens, as unlike them at least he knew he knew nothing.

And in any event, I can’t help suspecting that even the very desire to achieve wisdom is probably nothing more than yet another symptom of the insatiable human appetite for self-deception, or in other words wishdom.

Dynastic demolition in Singapore?


June 25, 2017

Dynastic demolition in Singapore?

by Michael Barr

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/06/22/dynastic-demolition-in-singapore/

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An extraordinary dispute within Singapore’s ruling family broke into the open on 14 June. Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang — the two younger children of the late Lee Kuan Yew — posted a message on Facebook accusing their elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, of subverting their father’s last will and testament by avoiding the demolition of the family home.

More seriously for the public interest, they accused Lee Hsien Loong of abusing his position to achieve this end and of trying to engineer a dynastic succession whereby his son Li Hongyi would enter politics as a third generation of Lees. They are particularly concerned that Hsien Loong’s personal solicitor possessed and was using documents that had been made available only to the National Heritage Board for the purposes of organising a commemorative display.

As a result of this episode, the Lee siblings have discovered to their horror that there are no checks and balances on the power of the prime minister and that the Singaporean press is meek and timid. They seem to think that they are the first to have noticed this. So fearful are the Lee siblings of their elder brother that Lee Hsien Yang has announced his intention to flee the country.

The third generation of Lees are now involved as well. Lee Hsien Loong’s son, Li Hongyi, says he never wanted to enter politics anyway, despite his ambition being an open secret. Lee Hsien Yang’s son Li Shengwu claimed ‘Not only do I intend never to go into politics, I believe that it would be bad for Singapore if any third-generation Lee went into politics. The country must be bigger than one family’.

It is difficult to judge what is most significant in this episode. Insofar as long-term consequences for the governance and future of Singapore, there is substantial damage to the Lee brand — and by consequence, the Singapore brand. Lee Wei Ling, Lee Hsien Yang and Li Shengwu do not want power for themselves, but they do want to delegitimise Lee Hsien Loong’s rule during his final 5–10 years in office and to spoil Li Hongyi’s entry into politics. His ambition is their ultimate target.

Their Facebook post was the first occasion on which there had been any word of Li Hongyi’s ambition from within the ruling elite — and it came in the form of a denunciation of dynastic ambition. In a country that brands itself as a meritocracy, such a suggestion is poisonous and — if made by anyone outside the family — would have resulted in legal action.

Furthermore, the news was delivered in such a way that it left Li Hongyi tainted by association with his father rather than his grandfather. Rightly or wrongly, the Lee Kuan Yew brand commands an extraordinarily high level of political capital — both domestically and internationally — because it is inextricably linked with the Singapore success story. No one who watched his funeral, Singapore’s 50th anniversary celebrations or the 2015 General Elections can doubt the power of his image — which, coincidentally, the Singapore government now regulates.

Instead of adding to the Lee family brand over the last 13 years, Lee Hsien Loong has been spending the social and political capital he inherited. Lee Hsien Loong’s personal brand is associated with his several apologies to the nation in 2011–13 for things going wrong in Singapore, as well as with the electoral setbacks of 2011. He clawed back ground in the 2015 General Elections only by capitalising on his father’s image at every turn. Now it seems the Lee Hsien Loong brand is also going to be associated with a nasty family dispute and the perception that he is trying to manoeuvre his son into power.

Hence, Li Hongyi now has a formidable task before him if he is to pursue a career in politics. He needs to build on his association with his grandfather while distancing himself from his father — but presumably while relying on his father to provide him the entrée into the halls of power.

This is not impossible. During his time in the Army, he carefully constructed an image for himself as a gadfly who defied protocol to criticise his betters and bring about reform. But doing the same thing to his father — while simultaneously relying on his father’s patronage and protection — would be very tricky indeed. He might find it more attractive to just enter the corporate sector and make a fortune. If he does, then history will be looking at the events of the last week as the turning point at which the fate of the Lee dynasty was decided.

Michael Barr is Associate Professor at the School of History and International Relations, Flinders University.